BOSTON In the absence of Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics didn't find that one playmaker to run the team ... they found two in Courtney Lee and Jason Terry.
While the two have played together often this season, it wasn't until they had to play a couple Rondo-less games did each seem to figure out how to be an effective playmaker with the other on the floor.
"They've been together, but it was like neither one of them really wanted to run the position," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "And when they were forced to, they realized there were sets we can run where they don't have to be the point and be very effective. Now they're doing it."
And the impact it has on the C's can't be measured solely by assists and points, either.
One of the keys to Boston's 104-94 victory over Minnesota was their play in the second and fourth quarters.
They were the starting backcourt to begin the second quarter, and were instrumental in Boston erasing a three-point deficit and turning it into a three-point lead before Rondo returned.
After taking a seven-point lead into the fourth, the duo once again delivered early as Boston opened the quarter with an 11-3 run to go up by 15 points - their largest lead of the night at that point - before Rondo checked back into the game.
"We've built up some good chemistry, he (Lee) and I," Terry said. "It took a while but we've gotten there now."
Added Lee: "We're definitely getting a better feel for each other's game, and how to play off one another better."
Terry is a 6-foot-2 combo guard while Lee is a 6-5 combo guard who can also play some at small forward. That versatility has the potential to impact games on various levels; among them, being a reliable backup for Rondo.
"We both can handle the ball, we both can get us into our offense early and we both like to fly out in transition," said Terry who had a season-high 11 assists against Milwaukee on Saturday which was one of the games Rondo missed while serving a two-game suspension.
And while neither is a tradition bring-the-ball-up kind of point guard, it's clear that the league is gravitating more and more away from those type of playmakers as backups or key reserves.
That's why Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has insisted that he's not seeking to add another ball-handler to the mix anytime soon.
And because both know each other's games better, Terry says it's easier to just play now rather than try to play and be the team's point guard, too.
"In Doc's system and in this system a multitude of ball handlers can be on the floor at any given time, so that's why our skillset plays right in for each other," Terry said. "If I see him (Lee) get the outlet, I'm gone. If he sees me, he's gone. So there's no hesitation. There's definitely a much, much smoother burden on each other."